A report out of Europe today says that some of Kia’s higher-ups are chomping at the bit for a roadster à la the Mazda MX-5 Miata and are also considering an all-wheel-drive variant of the Soul crossover.
“I’d like to have a Kia MX-5,” Kia Europe’s CEO Paul Philpott told Britain’s Auto Express. “2011 and 2012 are about establishing the brand. But for 2013 and 2014, we’re thinking about halo models that stretch the company forward.”
The overarching point, Philpott said, is to differentiate Kia and Hyundai.
“There’s a big program going on right now: how do we best differentiate Hyundai and Kia?” Philpott said. In the past, we have been too close together, but if Kia is fun, dynamic and more youthful, Hyundai is more about style and comfort, more up-market. VW manages brands more effectively than most. If you think Hyundai is more like VW, Kia is more like SEAT.”
Not the greatest comparison, granted, as VW’s troubled Spanish subsidiary is on the verge of being shut down, but an analogy that Europeans will understand. In the U.S., it would be similar to the relationship between the everyman’s Chevrolet and the more up-market Buick. But it’s not just Philpott that wants to expand the brand.
“The brand deserves a sporty car, like a roadster,” chief designer Peter Schreyer told Auto Express in a separate interview.
Philpott said the company is also looking at a small all-wheel-drive crossover that would slot below the Sportage. All-wheel drive is a strong selling point for cars and SUVs in Europe, and with the Kia Soul due for an update in the next few years, Auto Express thinks it’s the most likely candidate, and we don’t disagree. As we reported yesterday, Kia’s considering different ways to keep its little crossover hot and expanded capability could be the ticket.
“We’re looking at the market for a smaller SUV that is four-wheel-drive,” Philpott said.
The big question, of course, is whether either of these models would make it to America. Mazda’s MX-5 is a company mainstay, but despite being one of the most popular roadsters of all time, it still sells in fairly small numbers in the U.S. What’s more, every challenger that’s come along has failed to dethrone it, the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky twins being of particular note. The potential all-wheel-drive Soul is also a toss-up, as its fuel economy may suffer and there may not be sufficient demand for the enhanced – and likely more expensive – powertrain here. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.
Source: Auto Express